Justice, News, Politics

Trump fires Gordon Sondland as EU ambassador

Trump fires key impeachment witness Gordon Sondland as EU ambassador

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland speaks with President Trump at Melsbroek Air Base in July 2018 in Brussels. Sondland is speaking to House committees on Thursday.
But the President Trump said he does not know the ambassador, so the photo may be fake 🙂

Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the EU, became the second impeachment witness to be fired on Friday. Sondland was ousted not long after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, another crucial witness to President Donald Trump’s Ukraine dealings, was abruptly fired and escorted from the White House.

Trump fires key impeachment witness Gordon Sondland as EU ambassador

Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the EU, became the second impeachment witness to be fired on Friday. Sondland was ousted not long after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, another crucial witness to President Donald Trump’s Ukraine dealings, was abruptly fired and escorted from the White House.

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Our democracy is at risk’: Watch Rep. Al Green call for Trump’s impeachment on 2017

Reminder: On May 17, Representative Green made a call for impeachment on the house floor and House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced that he was issuing subpoenas on the memo FBI director James Comey wrote detailing possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Since coming out in favor of impeachment, Green told BuzzFeed News that he has faced threats and has had to hire armed security. “For some of us this is about more than votes and Congress,” he said over the phone Tuesday. “For some of us, this is about physical harm that may befall us. You can’t go into my district office unless you see a person with a gun,” he added (referring to security guards).

Green has repeatedly pushed for the inclusion of an impeachment article that addresses Trump’s history of racism, telling BuzzFeed News in September, that he hoped there would be “be at least one article of impeachment concerning the president’s bigotry infused into policy that is harming our society.”

The First Democrat To Call For Impeachment Says If The Senate Won’t Remove Trump From Office, Democrats Can Try Again

WASHINGTON – In May of 2017, Texas Rep. Al Green became the first Democrat in Congress to support impeaching President Donald Trump. Trump had, at the time, been in office for just four months. Since then, he’s forced a House vote on impeachment three times, each one garnering more support than the last.

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Impeachment: Donald Trump and Lev Parnas

President Donald Trump and aides sought Thursday to distance him from a Soviet-born businessman who said Trump knew all about efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating U.S. political rival Joe Biden – a pivotal point in the Senate impeachment trial of the president.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever spoken to him,” Trump told reporters about Lev Parnas, taking questions after an event announcing new federal guidance he has said will “safeguard” the rights of students to pray in school.

Parnas, who once worked with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, has provided House investigators with documents to buttress his claims that Trump sought political dirt from a foreign country on Biden and on his son Hunter Biden, who once worked for a Ukrainian gas company called Burisma.

“It was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden,” Parnas told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, adding that “it was never about corruption. It was strictly about Burisma, which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.”

Parnas said Trump knows him well and there are pictures of the two of them at various events.

In an interview with CNN, Parnas said that every time Trump denies knowing him, “I’ll show him another picture. He’s lying.”

Trump spoke about his latest accuser as the Senate formally began preparing for trial on impeachment charges that he abused power and obstructed a congressional investigation into his actions regarding Ukraine.

Downplaying Parnas’ claims, a series of Trump administration officials stressed that Parnas is under indictment, and claimed that he is trying to get a lighter sentence by accusing others.

“These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

Parnas also said Vice President Mike Pence knew about the effort to lean on Ukraine to investigate Biden. He said Pence decided not to attend the inauguration of President  Volodymyr Zelensky because Ukraine had not announced an investigation of the Bidens.

Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said that witnesses during the House impeachment investigation “have testified under oath in direct contradiction to Lev Parnas statements.”

It’s “very simple,” Short added: “Lev Parnas is under a multi-count indictment and will say anything to anybody who will listen in hopes of staying out of prison.”

In the wake of Parnas’ claims, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry announced Thursday it would investigate evidence that Parnas knew about surveillance of Marie Yovanovitch, who was then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Parnas’ submission to House investigators included text messages between Parnas and a Trump supporter named Robert Hyde discussing what appeared to be efforts to track Yovanovitch’s movements in Kyiv.

On another front, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a legal opinion saying that Trump’s Office of Management and Budget “violated the law” in withholding $214 million in security assistance to Ukraine.

During the impeachment investigation, Democrats said Trump used the withheld aid in an attempt to extort Ukraine into announcing an investigation of Biden.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who requested the GAO investigation, said the GAO report proves that “the Trump Administration illegally withheld assistance from Ukraine and the public evidence shows that the president himself ordered this illegal act.”

OMB spokesperson Rachel Semmel said the administration disagreed with GAO’s opinion.

“OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law,” she said.

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Alexander Vindman arrives for a deposition at the U.S. Capitol

Alexander Vindman and his brother twin, Yevgeny, were 4 old when they landed in the United States, settling in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. As a kids, the twins often dressed alike.Now they both work in the White House, both for the National Security Council.

Grateful to the nation that adopted them, the twins enlisted in the U.S. Army and launched careers in government. Today, at 44, Vindman is a military man in a job that puts a premium on discretion — and the commander in chief, without evidence, calls him a “Never Trumper witness.” .

Because now Vindman is suddenly a crucial figure in a controversy that could lead to the impeachment of President Trump — hailed by many of Trump’s critics as a patriotic truth-teller yet dismissed by the president and some of his allies as a disloyal tattler who is somehow not fully American.

But those who have worked with Vindman describe him as a model officer.
“He was firm and he was balanced,” said Peter Zwack, a now-retired brigadier general who was Vindman’s boss when the young officer was a Defense Department official working in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives to testify as part of the U.S. House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Trump led by the House Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs and House Oversight and Reform Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko – RC1DFA326460

As director of European affairs for the National Security Council, Vindman was required to listen in to the July 25 phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, where Vindman was born. After the call, Vindman felt compelled to report his alarm over hearing the president request that Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Washington scandals have at times over the years featured previously anonymous bureaucrats who glimpsed wrongdoing and found themselves thrust into instant fame, their lives abruptly gone, their motives and histories examined for bias or venal intent.

In this time of political division and Internet-facilitated inspection, Vindman has lost the anonymity that served him well in Army positions at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and in the White House.

After consulting with an ethics lawyer — his twin brother, a National Security Council attorney who worked across the hall from him — Vindman took his concern up the chain of command. He was no whistleblower, but he ended up telling his story to investigators, to a congressional committee, and soon, he is expected to appear before lawmakers during nationally televised hearings.

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Public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump

The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee will kick off a series of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump next week, the panel’s Democratic chairman said on Wednesday.

William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent will testify on Nov. 13, while former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will appear on Nov. 15, Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s chairman, said in a statement.

ex-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch

He said more details will be released in coming days.

All three diplomats have raised alarm bells about the release of U.S. security aid to Ukraine being made contingent on Kiev publicly declaring it would carry out politically motivated investigations that Trump, a Republican, had demanded.

Televised public hearings featuring U.S. officials testifying in Congress about alleged wrongdoing by Trump could crowd out other issues like the economy and immigration as voters turn their minds to the November 2020 election.

State Department Official George Kent

That might damage Trump, but some of his supporters say the impeachment drive could actually boost his re-election chances by showing him at loggerheads with Washington-based political foes.

Democrats had said they had enough material to move forward with public impeachment hearings, which would be a likely prelude to articles of impeachment — formal charges — against Trump being brought to a vote in the House.

If the House votes to approve the articles of impeachment, the Republican-controlled Senate would then hold a trial on whether to remove Trump from office. Senate Republicans have so far shown little appetite for removing the president.

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Trump impeachment inquiry: The latest news

A top U.S. State Department official on Wednesday appeared before the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump, the first witness to show up this week after a string of administration officials refused to meet with investigators.

David Hale, who was appointed by Trump as under secretary for political affairs, met behind closed doors with lawmakers who are leading the probe of Trump in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

More details in the impeachment inquiry are expected to be released on Wednesday, a day after transcripts revealed a top Trump donor-turned-diplomat reversed course and told investigators Ukrainian aid was tied to investigations of political rivals sought by the U.S. president.

U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland ( right side)

On Tuesday, publicly released transcripts showed U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had returned to give lawmakers new details after his memory was “refreshed,” corroborating other witnesses who said Trump sought to pressure the Ukrainians into launching investigations that appeared aimed at boosting his 2020 re-election campaign.

House Democrats leading the inquiry are expected to release more transcripts on Wednesday, but have not yet said which accounts they will issue as the fast-moving probe marches toward televised public hearings.

Additional witnesses have also been called to testify, but some are likely to heed the White House and refuse to cooperate in the probe, which centers around Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asking him to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Joe Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to run against Trump, a Republican, in the November 2020 election. Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which had been investigated for corruption. Both have denied any impropriety.

Trump has blasted the House inquiry as a witch hunt and accused Democrats of unfairly targeting him in hope of reversing his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats have defended the investigation, citing concerns that the president misused his public office for personal gain.

John Bolton at the White House on October 3 in Washington, DC

“It’s clear abuse of presidential power. It cannot be OK in our country for a United States president – any president – to go to a foreign leader and ask for help in his election. It’s wrong,” Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat on the House intelligence panel, told MSNBC on Wednesday.

Top Trump administration officials are expected to be no-shows on Wednesday for the impeachment inquiry by congressional Democrats, who will continue to release more transcripts of the testimony they have already gathered.

The fast-moving inquiry, so far conducted behind closed doors, became more public this week after congressional investigators began releasing hundreds of pages of testimony.
Lawmakers are expected to release more transcripts on Wednesday, but have not said which accounts they will make public.

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